The fall is a time of leaves changing colors, weather cooling down, harvest, pumpkin festivals, people going back to school, and so much more. Story Shots, our creative nonfiction series, has taken on this theme in our latest installment. Below we have four fall-themed pieces from different writers for your pleasure. A List: We fall… into bed. and asleep. in …
Normally, I’m not one to start an online debate with another blog, but while scrolling through Tumblr a few days ago, I came across this post.
I immediately shared the post with the other contributors here at the blog, and we, along with many other Tumblr users, had a wide range of thoughts regarding this piece of advice.
Before I begin, I think it’s only fair to say that there were also many Tumblr users who shared their support of The Writers Helpers, the Tumblr blog which handed out this advice. According to these users, the account admins were not being racist, but simply honest.
In case you were wondering, I fundamentally disagree with the original advice offered by The Writers Helpers. Do I think that the admins of this blog (or “S,” the specific admin who responded to the question) are racist? No. I do not. However, the statement—the advice itself—advises writers to treat their own characters’ races as unequal.
Content on The Poetics Project is currently written by a few editors and contributors. While the blog cannot offer financial compensation for posts at this time, contributors are able to use any content written for the blog in their personal writing portfolios and have the opportunity to share their work with a community of storytellers. We can also offer readership—our blog gets nearly 3,000 views each month, and we hope that continues to grow!
The Poetics Project is currently seeking additional contributors to produce content for the blog. Being a contributor varies from person to person. For some, it means writing a monthly column. For others, it means writing weekly, or more. It can mean writing about all the literary stuff you can’t wait to get your hands on, offering writing advice, or interviewing authors. Right now, we are also interested in bringing on book reviewers, but we will take additional column ideas or writers into consideration as well.
If you’re an aspiring writer looking for a platform to share your work—blog posts and creative pieces. If you’re a writer looking for some motivation and freedom, for a place to help you find your voice, then this is the blog for you. If you would like to become a contributor, please send the items listed below to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things to Include in Your Email:
- Cover Letter
- Two Writing Samples
In addition, send us a response to the following prompt:
What do you think of profanity in writing?
Write this response as if it were a blog post, anywhere from 500-1000 words. We want to hear your voice!
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My significant other is a cook, and over the past few years, I’ve had the luxury of watching his talent grow—and my waistline when he’s on a roll. As a writer, I find the intersection of our two careers to be interesting. A good writer can describe food so well it will make your stomach grumble. And great food, like certain books or poems, stay with us. They fill us with nostalgia for our mother’s cooking and bring memories with them. Like how spaghetti makes me think of the time my father demanded I sit at the dining table all night and finish my bowl of pasta because there were children in Africa who didn’t have that luxury—but that’s another story.
The act of cooking can be meditative. I once read somewhere that our mind’s default mode is daydreaming, which is why you can drive from point A to point B without having any recollection of how you arrived there. And when you’re cooking or baking, I imagine the same thing happens. Your mind turns off while you chop, mix, and pour, and while it’s off, your imagination wanders. And it’s during these moments that inspiration can strike.
Besides writing poetry, baking inspired Emily Dickinson. She’d often send cakes and other sweets to friends along with her letters, or lower gingerbread down to the neighborhood children through her window with the help of a basket. She did this during a time in her life when she had become a complete recluse. But while baking, she would sometimes jot down a poem on the back of a recipe. She wrote “The Things that never can come back, are several” on the back of a coconut cake recipe (the original recipe can be found here).
However, the beautiful cake below was made by Cara Nicoletti, a writer, butcher, and former pastry chef living in Brooklyn, who created the blog Yummy Books. Little, Brown will be publishing a book about her love affair with reading and cooking next year.
It’s not very often you discover a secret to life, but get ready—I just learned a whopper (you’re welcome).
Every goal I have and every weakness I want eradicated can be achieved by figuring out one thing: how to quit procrastinating.
I’ll start eating healthy after cleaning this bowl of cookie dough. I’ll write that chapter tomorrow. I’ll work out Monday. I’ll finish that to-read stack, clean the litter box, floss—later later later. I’m never on time for anything, and even hitting the snooze button is just a way of procrastinating six times before I get up.
I didn’t understand how procrastinating was single-handedly thwarting everything in my life until I read about “The Procrastination Doom Loop” in The Atlantic and realized “later” may never arrive. Why? We don’t procrastinate because of poor time management; we procrastinate because 1) we feel like we’re in the wrong mood, and 2) we assume our mood will change in the future, which—let’s face it—rarely happens. My aunt, for example, sent Christmas cards every year with the same message, “Will write more later”—a spectacular example of how to hang fire.
So, I decided kicking procrastination may be the key to life without regret. After all, fulfillment literally means “the process of doing what is required,” not “avoiding it at all cost.” I have goals and a vision for my life, but I need to break that procrastination cycle if I want them to become realities.
Procrastination is most detrimental to writers, who—ironically—are notorious procrastinators. On one hand, writing may be our livelihoods, and regular writing is the only way to improve, produce material, build a portfolio, or avoid seeing poor-quality pieces killed after squeaking them out under deadline. On the other hand, writing is more than a job (for some of us, it may never be our jobs). Writing is our identity, i.e. “I am writer,” or “I think, therefore I write.” If we’re not writing—if we’re only thinking about writing, tomorrow—can we even call ourselves writers? Who are we really? Just students or interns or baristas slinging lattes who imagine writing, the way I imagine I can do a pull-up (I can’t).
I follow a lot of writers—whether that be on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr (John Green, anyone?), or Instagram. But Cheryl Strayed doesn’t post sneak peeks of her manuscripts. No, she posts photos of her with Reece Witherspoon and Laura Dern, who apparently are now her best friends after starring in the film adaptation of her memoir, Wild:
I mean, come on. They’re even rocking sunglasses. I think it’s safe to say Cheryl’s living the dream.
It’s harder to share passages of prose on a platform like Instagram. And when authors do release excerpts, it’s generally in a magazine—online or in print. Poets have an advantage on Instagram. For published writers to those less established, Instagram—and features of the digital age, like hashtags for one—gives savvy poets the ability to reach a huge pool of readers from all over the world.
The significance of this is that writers who plan on continuing the craft for years—those who know that they may one day seek to publish a collection of poems or even a novel—can begin developing a following early on in their careers before they ever have a single piece in print. This completely upturns the typical way that the industry works, where publishers act as “gatekeepers.”
There are plenty of ways to approach creating an Instagram for your poetry. As you’ll see from some of the poets whose accounts I’ve included below, some writers choose to separate their personal and professional accounts. This makes sense if you’re a private person or if you simply don’t want to bog down your current followers’ feeds with your poetry (Hey, not everyone’s a word nerd. We get it?). Other writers combine a little bit of it all, the personal, the professional, other hobbies and careers (like photography). And still, other writers choose to remain anonymous, preferring the use of a pen name.
As with all of writing and publishing, there is no one approach, but I think the poets of Instagram prove just how valuable social media can be for writers today. Here are just a few Instagram pages you should stop by:
Alexa Bolton and I went to college together as undergraduates, where we took a creative writing class in poetry. I remember back then, as she so often does now on her Instagram page, hearing her read poems she had written about love. And she does it beautifully. So much so that in the short time since she created her Instagram account (specifically for her poetry) back in January, she has gained nearly four thousand followers. Most of the pieces she posts are unedited. Alexa now teaches at Loyola Marymount University, where she earned herself a fellowship as she works towards her master’s degree.
Story Shots started off as an ode to tequila—that golden liquid that impairs us so perfectly. While tequila seemed to be a party liquid that made us think of margaritas and concerts, vodka has a very different relationship with our writers. Vodka for some is a social lubricant, but for others, it has a much darker connotation.
“Are you from Los Angeles? You look like you’re from Los Angeles,” he said.
“I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult,” I replied, taken aback by his strange, intuitive remark. “How did you know?” I asked.
“You look like you put thought into your outfit for tonight,” he replied with his voice flat.
Your outfit looks premeditated, too, I thought to myself. He wore an Arab keffiyeh around his neck, a black and white checkered scarf, and a thin layer of eyeliner beneath his eyes with his hair perfectly coiffed to the side.
I shifted my body from the awkward tension.
“Again, I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult.”
“It’s an observation. See, that’s exactly what I mean. People from Los Angeles are always worried about what people think, or what they mean. Who gives a fuck? I used to live there. That’s why I moved here.” He glanced around the San Franciscan apartment and returned his eyes to mine, as if summing up his statement. I didn’t see the conversation going anywhere further. Wherever he was, I didn’t want to be. He had a point that I didn’t want to mull over, in fear of losing my buzz.
I walked into the next room, which was supposed to be the dining room. Instead, the oak dining table had been converted into what looked like a mountainous collection of red Solo cups.
Someone whispered into my ear, gently tingling the soft fuzz around my skin. When I turned to admire my boyfriend, I was abruptly startled by the crass voice of one of the roommates making an announcement: “Seriously, no one wants to fucking play?”
“What are we playing?” said my boyfriend.
“Oh! So you’re in! It’s just like beer pong. You know the rules of beer pong, right?”
“You just throw the ping pong ball into the cups?” he replied.
“Yeah, sorta. Except we’re using vodka.”
I chimed in, “Vodka? Are you kidding me?”
“We don’t have enough beer. The cups are empty. No one wants to drink from a cup with some nasty ping pong ball that just fell on the floor. You score, we remove the cup and drink a shot of vodka. You can chase it, if you’d like.”
I looked around the room, spotting my flattering, yet undercutting scarf-wearing friend, and shrugged, “Alright. I guess I’m in, too.”
“She’ll drink for my shots!” declared my boyfriend.
Again, I shrugged the declaration off, assuming we were in the game to win it.
He missed the shot. In fact, we both missed all the shots. The other team, like some dauntless heavy weight champions made every single shot and I, as a result of poor ping pong throwing skills, drank all the vodka. In the morning, my nineteen year-old frame laid stiff on a deflated air mattress due to my inability to figure out how to use the air pump in my drunken stupor. I managed to stand up, twisting my back from side to side, becoming increasingly nauseous with each movement. I stopped, seemingly, while the room kept moving. And when the room settled and I was on the brink of hating myself for venturing out with enough brazen confidence to play a vodka-pong tournament, I inhaled and thought to myself, “Who gives a fuck?” Then, all sudden-like, that rumbling feeling, like an internal landslide, loosening age-old gravel, free from it’s tightened and rigid past. A moment of invigoration. All at once. And then I puked.
I was nineteen. I shouldn’t have been drinking, so my drink of choice at the costume party was simply vodka and cranberry juice. The party wasn’t very intense—it was a bunch of twenty-somethings, plus one nineteen year old, drinking and watching scary movies. That all changed when there was a knock at the door. The party had officially been crashed.
These uncostumed men were older and cousins of someone living across the street. I was dressed like an angel—irony, I thought, because of my atheism. It wasn’t a sexy angel, either. I was wearing a long white robe, sandals, and wings.
After my third drink, I had to pee. I went to the downstairs bathroom only to find it occupied. That was fine. I wandered upstairs. One of the men followed me up while the rest of his crew stayed downstairs and turned the music up.
I was a little fuzzy, so as I was washing my hands I splashed a bit of cold water on my face and looked up. I was makeup-less. I was wearing a baggy white sack. I was there with my bros. The night was a little scary with the new additions to the party, but they weren’t bothering me any so I was fine. Or so I thought.
I opened the door and he pushed me back into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.
“Hello,” I said, confused.
“You’re pretty,” the drunk, probably thirty year old, said.
“Thanks, I guess,” I replied as I went past him and to the door to unlock it and leave.
He pinned me against the sink counter and tried to kiss me. He started clawing at my chest.
“No,” I breathed.
He ignored my words and my struggle and continued to try to kiss me. I wiggled out of his grip and walked towards the door again. This time he pushed me into the large bathtub. I continued to push him off of me and fight his advances. As I struggled against his large body, I felt it. His gun. He was armed.
He didn’t reach for it, though. Maybe he didn’t remember that he had it. Maybe he genuinely thought I was playing hard to get and he wasn’t trying to rape me. I got away once again and got to the door before him. I ran downstairs. He followed, casually, and found his friends had left.
“You missed it!” my friends cried.
“What?” I said while eyeing the man that had assaulted me in the bathroom.
“Dude, the cops came and one of the crashers pulled a knife on him. The cop slammed him down and arrested him. The rest of the guys left.”
“Fuck,” said my assailant. He walked out the front door.
I took off my wings and sat on the couch. I stared at my sandals.
Sandy Hall is a teen librarian from New Jersey where she was born and raised. She has a BA in Communication and a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. When she isn’t writing, or teen librarian-ing, she enjoys reading, slot machines, marathoning TV shows, and long scrolls through Tumblr. A Little Something Different is her first novel.
The Poetics Project: Describe your novel in ten words or less.
Sandy Hall: A girl meets boy story told from everyone else’s perspective.
TPP: What inspired you to write A Little Something Different?
SH: I was inspired by the Swoon Reads website. I’d been working on a completely different book, that had no romance in it. Then I saw an article about Swoon and I decided to try my hand at writing teen romance.
TPP: What was the most difficult aspect of writing your novel?
SH: Editing! Without a doubt. The writing comes easy, it’s the re-writing and editing that’s tough for me.
I can’t speak for all writers because all writers are different because we’re all people and people are all different. There are plenty of lists on Buzzfeed or eHarmony that offer tips or the pros and cons of dating a writer—and I don’t like them. I feel like they are incomplete or paint a very one-note picture of a writer.
Now, I’ve never dated a writer, but I am a writer and I work with writers and I write for writers and I’m friends with writers, so I thought I’d have some more specific tips to give on this matter that may be of interest to people in the dating scene who wish to date a writer.
1. Woo them with books. Here’s the thing about me and most of the writers that I know: we love to read. That’s why we fell into writing. We all have our own preferences, though. For example, I wouldn’t get my fellow blogger and co-creator Melanie Figueroa a Shakespeare play because I know Shakespeare isn’t her thing (it’s my thing), but I would seek out contemporary authors like Chuck Palahniuk or Margaret Atwood, because I know authors like that are her favorite. Being specific and knowing your writer’s taste is key to this.
One of my writer friends has a writer girlfriend, and he and I ended up traveling to Taiwan last summer to teach. He found her favorite book, The Great Gatsby, in the bookstore we visited in Taiwan and got her a copy of it in Chinese. He then had our host read the first two pages of the book in Chinese and recorded it so his girlfriend could listen to her favorite book in this language she didn’t speak. I thought that was terribly romantic, and I’m sure she did too.
All of that being said, it’s really not about the price of the book. Writers are often ones who can appreciate older, used books. Don’t go buy the latest release of your writer’s favorite author if you don’t need to. We’re not greedy. You don’t have to break the bank over us.
“My rambling brat (in print) should mother call, / I cast thee by as one unfit for light, / The visage was so irksome in my sight.” — Anne Bradstreet, “The Author to Her Book”
Dear Montana Kaimin,
The other day, I sorted my portfolio and a certain stack of newspapers and remembered completing my undergrad at the University of Montana.
The worst part was definitely Spanish, in which I mainly learned charades and spent all-nighters memorizing las palabras and asking: 1) What the hell am I doing in life? and 2) Did I really just eat half this cake?
The best part, however, was working for you—and you, at least, answered that first question. I was a paid copyeditor for two years and also published twenty-three columns beneath a cartoon that made me look like a panda. Editors spent more time playing Nintendo than dropping stories in the slot, and occasionally a photographer would throw up in a garbage can before the paper went to print at midnight. I learned AP style, began building my portfolio, and heard terms like “pitch,” “copy,” and “slug” for the first time. We squeezed homework in between stories, and no one ever cleaned the microwave. It was the best part of my college experience.
But there was a catch.
My published columns were never exactly the columns I wrote—and I hated you for that. It could have been anything: a disrupted sentence structure, a rearranged paragraph, a misplaced semicolon. Goddamn you all! I’d protest the whole thing by refusing to bring home copies on pub day. I’d read it once, slam it on a bench, and tell it to think about what it had done wrong overnight.